Bucs Expected To Pursue QB Baker Mayfield

The Buccaneers are expected to pursue free agent quarterback Baker Mayfield when free agency opens this week, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Given its difficult salary cap situation, Tampa Bay is in need of an experienced starting QB option with a fairly low price tag, and Mayfield — whose market value is roughly $6.5MM per year on a two-year contract, per Spotrac — fits that bill.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick of the Browns in the 2018 draft, had an up-and-down tenure in Cleveland. After a promising rookie campaign and a sophomore slump, Mayfield appeared to breakout in 2020 in the offense installed by new head coach Kevin Stefanski. He led the club to an 11-5 record and a playoff victory, throwing for 26 TDs against just eight interceptions and posting a 95.9 quarterback rating.

However, a regression in 2021 precipitated the Browns’ aggressive pursuit of Deshaun Watson last offseason, and Cleveland ultimately traded Mayfield to the Panthers in July. Though the Oklahoma product beat out Sam Darnold for Carolina’s QB1 post, his time in Charlotte was an unmitigated disaster, and he was waived in December.

Mayfield rebuilt his stock a bit with a decent five-game run with the Rams to close out the 2022 season, though it seems unlikely he will simply be handed a starting job somewhere. In Tampa, he would at least have a real chance to become a starter again, as he would be competing with Kyle Trask, a 2021 second-rounder who has thrown a grand total of nine passes in his pro career.

The Rams’ apparent rebuild has led some to wonder if veteran starter Matthew Stafford would be traded in a cost-cutting move, something which would open the door to Mayfield being able to carry on from where he left off in Los Angeles. GM Les Snead recently made it clear, however, that Stafford is one of a few core players who are likely to be retained over the coming years.

That leaves Mayfield as one of many signal-callers set to hit the open market, one which already features Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota since they were released by the Commanders and Falcons, respectively. Mayfield joins that pair in terms of highly-drafted QBs who have fallen well short of expectations given their draft stock, but who could still provide some upside under the right circumstances. Other options remain on the table for the Buccaneers, however.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Bucs have interest in not only Mayfield, but Jacoby Brissett and Blaine Gabbert as well (Twitter link). The latter served as Tom Brady‘s backup over the course of their three seasons spent in Tampa, so he would of course be a familiar face if he were to be re-signed. The former had a stint as the Browns’ starter while Watson was suspended in 2022, and will be looking to parlay that into a deal allowing him to compete for playing time.

The Dolphins will not be suitors for Mayfield, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Miami will have Tua Tagovailoa on the books for at least the next two years, since they are picking up his fifth-year option. However, a veteran insurance policy is expected to be a high priority for the Dolphins; their search will lead them away from Mayfield, but he still figures to have suitors aiming to give him an opportunity to resurrect his career.

Adam La Rose contributed to this post. 

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